US Cobalt: A Cycle of Diverse and Important Uses

Thomas E. Graedel and 1 other contributor

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    We present a material flow and stock analysis for cobalt use and waste in the United States from 1996 to 2020, including the separation of cobalt flows into six product groups and five end-use sectors. The results demonstrate the importance of U.S. manufacturing for air travel, energy storage, cemented carbides, and numerous other applications. Battery use in the United States has become the primary factor in cobalt demand, but the batteries are manufactured mainly elsewhere. The correlation of cobalt products to principal end-use sectors provides an informed view of the location of cobalt in in-use stocks. Two approaches could primarily address these stocks: enhanced recycling of batteries in consumer/business electronics and implementing cobalt-free substitutes for chemical uses and future battery technologies. Overall, cobalt's uses are as diverse and societally crucial as any element in the periodic table but have heretofore not received the levels of attention they deserve.